Audi Q3 review
The Audi Q3 is the littlest off-roader of the Q family, and its rivals include the Mercedes GLA and Range Rover Evoque
The Audi Q3 is a compact SUV that shares its underpinnings with the last generation Audi A3 hatchback. A smaller version of the Audi Q5, the Q3 takes its bigger brother’s styling and excellent interior, but is Audi’s answer to the Mercedes GLA, BMW X1 and lower spec versions of the Range Rover Evoque.
Audi offers the Q3 in three trim-levels - SE, S line and S line plus. All models come with plenty of space and standard kit, but like most other Audis, optional extras are expensive. Petrol buyers can select the Q3 with either a 1.4-litre or 2.0-litre engine, but those wanting diesel can only have their Q3 with Audi's 2.0-litre TDI unit with various power outputs. The Audi quattro four-wheel-drive system is available on all the cars with 2.0-litre power.
Both the diesel and petrol engined Q3s can be mated to Audi’s S-Tronic automatic gearbox and owners who don’t expect to go off-roading can select their Q3 with the Audi’s more fuel-efficient front-wheel drive system.
Like the majority of the rest of the range, Audi also offers a powerful RS Q3, which has a 306bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. While it costs a hefty £43,000, the RS Q3 is the one of the fastest compact SUVs on sale today.
Overall then, its no surprise that the Audi Q3 was an instant hit, thanks to its blend of handsome looks, upmarket appeal and beautiful build quality.
Our choice: Q3 SE 2.0 TDI (177) quattro S tronic
Given the success of the larger Audi Q5 and Q7, it’s no surprise the smaller Q3 borrows many of their styling cues. Up front are the brand’s trademark grille and swept-back headlamps, while the flanks lead into a clamshell tailgate. Given its SUV nature, the Q3 gets a few aesthetic extras like rugged-looking plastic wheel-arches and sills - on S-Line, S-Line Plus and RS cars, these are the same colour as the rest of the car.
Being an Audi, the Q3 has a first-rate interior, with lots of soft-touch plastic covering the dashboard, and the stereo controls get a knurled metal finish.
Audi’s MMI integrated entertainment system is also very easy to use and generally speaking, the Audi Q3 is very well equipped. ‘Entry’ SE trim cars come with start/stop technology, 17-inch alloys, climate control, automatic wipers and lights, parking sensors, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and a 6.5-inch display screen as standard.
If you opt for the more sport orientated Audi Q3 S line model, you also get 18-inch alloys, a suspension that’s 20mm lower, front sports seats embossed with Audi’s S line logo, aluminum interior inlays, xenon headlights and a chrome vertical grille plus sports front and rear bumpers. The S Line Plus trim Audi Q3 gets 19-inch wheels, Alcantara S Line embossed seats, privacy glass and cruise control.
There are some quirks with the interior of the Audi Q3, though. The high-set driving position gives you a good view of the road and the sports seats are comfortable. The bus-like angle of the steering wheel also feels odd.
The RS Q3 gets the ubiquitous honeycomb grille found on all Audi RS models, and other trimmings to let everyone else know you’re driving the most powerful model in the Q3 range.
Standard (non-RS) Audi Q3 models are available with either 1.4-litre or 2.0-litre engines. Our choice of powerplant is either the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel unit, or the livelier 174bhp version of the same engine. The latter offers the best combination of performance and fuel efficiency in the Q3 range thanks to its 51.4mpg combined economy and 8.2s 0-60mph time.
The 1.4 TFSI engine is a relatively new addition to the line-up but it's a really smooth and powerful unit. It also boasts fuel economy and CO2 emissions that are really similar to the diesel variants. Plus, because petrol cars are liable for less company car tax, it's a good choice for company car buyers.
Thanks to its strong grip and decent body control, the car-like Audi Q3 feels agile and composed. Better still, its combination of compact size, excellent visibility and well weighted controls helps inspire confidence when threading it down twisty back roads and crowded city streets.
The Drive Select system, which is an option worth around £220, allows the driver to adjust the steering weight and throttle response - it’s best left in its normal mode, as it makes the steering feel artificially heavy in Sport.
However, this sharp handling comes at a price: like other compact SUVs, the Audi Q3 suffers from a firm and fidgety low-speed ride, even on the softer Dynamic suspension (an even stiffer S line set-up is a no-cost option). We’d recommend forking out for the adaptive dampers, which deliver a more supple ride.
Both gearboxes found in the Audi Q3, the twin-clutch S tronic automatic and the standard six-speed manual, are excellent, but throughout the range, the ride is quite supple and this is only made worse by the larger wheels found on S line models.
When you put your foot down in the Audi RS Q3, the turbo gives a loud whoosh and the exhaust a race inspired exhaust note. With 306bhp shared across all four wheels thanks to Audi’s quattro system, the RS Q3 can sprint from 0-60mph in just 5.5 seconds.
Audi is well known for building high-quality products and the Q3 doesn't feel like an exception to that rule, despite it being one of the older models in the Audi line-up. Audi finished 12th in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction, while the Q3 itself finished 17th in our 150 carlist.
The Q3 uses plenty of solid materials and feels like it is built to last. It also comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and three years' RAC breakdown cover, which should help keep bills to a minimum.
Despite its age, the Audi A3 was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating, as well as 94 and 85 per cent respectively for adult and child occupant protection, the Audi Q3 should prove to be very safe as well. Six airbags and electronic stability control come as standard and there's lots of safety equipment on the options list.
This includes everything from a Speed Limit Display, to Active Lane Assist, which helps to maintain the vehicle’s position in its lane. Further up the range, S line models feature Xenon headlamps as standard.
While it may look identical to the Audi Q5, the Q3 is around 250mm shorter, 70mm narrower and 65mm lower, so it’s closer to the Volkswagen Golf in-terms of practicality. At 460-litres, the boot of the Q3 is 40-litres bigger than that found on the BMW X1 and rear passengers get a bit more space.
One criticism levelled at the Audi Q3 could be that while the boot space expands to 1,365-litres, the back seats don’t fold fully flat so sliding things in-and-out is unnecessarily difficult. However, if you do need to carry longer items, Audi offers a folding front passenger seat as an option on the Q3.
In terms of passenger comfort, adults should still be comfortable, while the high roofline and large side windows help the Q3’s cabin feel brighter and airy. It also features lots of practical storage space, including large cup-holders and wide door bins.
The most economically viable Audi Q3 is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 138bhp. When mated with a manual gearbox and front-wheel-drive, this Q3 will return a combined cycle of 54mpg and 137g/km of CO2.
If you opt for the quattro four-wheel-drive system with this engine, this increases emissions to 149g/km and the combined cycle figure drops by 10 per cent. Apart from the RS Q3, the 2.0 TFSI with quattro four-wheel is the most powerful Q3 in the range, but it has a poor combined economy of 39mpg and 174g/km. Predictably, the quick RS Q3 has worse fuel economy with a combined cycle of 32.1mpg and 206g/km of CO2.
The 1.4 TFSI is a good compromise, boasting 47.9mpg and 137g/km.
Fortunately, Audis tend to hold their value well, so expect the Q3 to have good residuals and not depreciate as much as some of its rivals.
A further financial incentive surrounding the Q3 comes in the form of Audi’s Service Complete maintenance pack, which costs around £16 a month - up the outlay to £31 and the level of cover is increased to include replacement tyres and your first MoT.